As their water bills skyrocket, some Columbia Water customers blame their new meters

As their water bills skyrocket, some Columbia Water customers blame their new meters

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - For some, water bills are draining their wallets.

Columbia resident Laurie Prows reached out to WIS after her Columbia Water bill jumped from $64.70 in January, to $331.59 in February.

She said she blames the new digital water meter installed at her home in August. She said it began giving her higher readings and then proceeded to go up and down on the rates.

She said the February bill was a breaking point.

“[Columbia Water] came out here and they came to the conclusion there were no leaks, and nobody could tell me why it was reading that I’ve used that much water when I know that I have not,” she said.

She said the new meter brought the first issues she’s had with the utility in more than 10 years.

The digital meter is part of an on-going effort by Columbia Water to replace roughly 150,000 meters with newer digital models.

Columbia Water’s website on the transition credits faster service, better information, and more reliable billing as reasons for the switch. It allows the company to transmit information digitally.

Customer Karrie Grant echoed Prows’ experience. She said her meter was swapped in November (Columbia Water said it was in September) and her bills have steadily climbed.

She provided WIS records showing a $97.13 bill in October steadily climb on a monthly basis before peaking at $309.30 in January.

“At that time [Columbia Water] came out and said there was nothing for them to check that the meter was showing exactly how it was,” she said.

Columbia Water told both to check for leaks, and both said they have had independent plumbers check their homes.

They said no leaks were found.

“I mean at this point it’s just defeat. We can’t find anything, we’ve paid people to come out and look at it. There’s nothing being detected so we’re just at the mercy of the City of Columbia to pay bills that have no explanation as to why they’ve tripled in price,” Grant said.

Columbia Water spokesperson Robert Yanity sent WIS this statement on their situations:

According to our records, the meter at [Grant’s residence] was actually showing elevated readings prior to the meter change-out, which is a sign of a potential leak. The new automated meter infrastructure (AMI) meter was changed out in September 2020, and since then it has detected a continuous flow of water at the location, which is indicative of an ongoing leak. We have inspected the meter and the leak is not on the City’s side. She has been contacted by our automated system on numerous occasions to make her aware of the continuous flow. If she is able to find the leak on her side and make repairs, she could be eligible for an adjustment to her bill with proof of the repairs.

As for the meter at [Prows’ residence], that meter was upgraded to an AMI meter in August 2020. It began detecting continuous flow that same month. That meter was inspected as well and showed no sign of a leak on the City’s side. According to the meter data, the continuous flow stopped as of February 13. If the customer has made repairs to their system, they are also eligible for an adjustment to their bill with the proof of the repairs. We encourage both customers to contact our Customer Care team to see if they are eligible at 545-3300. We are always more than happy to work with our customers.

The purpose of the AMI upgrade project is to provide the most reliable possible measurement of our customers’ water use. With AMI, our customers’ water consumption is transmitted remotely, securely, and directly to Columbia Water on a daily basis. And by downloading the Eye On Water App, customers can track their usage in real-time and even set alerts about possible leaks. The nearly 100,000 customers who have received the new meter can download the app at https://columbiascwater.eyeonwater.com/signin.

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